By Kent Gray
Beware the injured golfer, especially one channelling his inner Bernhard Langer.

Lee Westwood was conspicuous by his absence at last week’s Golf in Dubai Championship despite being promoted as the main drawcard for the hastily arranged first leg of the European Tour’s season-ending Dubai double-header.

The reason behind the 47-year-old’s late scratching from Fire was revealed when he turned up for the 12th DP World Tour Championship on Jumeirah Golf Estates neighbouring Earth layout; Westwood has been struggling with a tender back since finishing T-38 (alongside Tiger Woods) the Masters.

“If it wasn’t the final event of the year I’d probably take this week off,” said Westwood who is the only player to have teed it up in all 11 previous DPWTCs.

“But there’s a lot on the line this week. You could beware the injured golfer. We’ll just have to see.”

There is indeed plenty to play for with Westwood chasing a third Harry Vardon Trophy after being European No.1 in 2000 and again in 2009, the first year of the European Tour’s new-look Race to Dubai.

A 26th European Tour win will get it done and would book-end a stellar year started with victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.

Age, the sore back notwithstanding, is just a number for Westwood who is using Langer’s historic made cut at the Masters at the age of 63 as inspiration this week. Westwood can surpass Langer who is also a two-time European No.1.

“To win it for a third time would be amazing,” he said. “I’m 48 in April next year, it shows if you keep yourself fairly fit and retain your enthusiasm and mental capacity for the game, as we saw with Bernhard Langer at the Masters, you can carry on playing to a high level for a long, long time.

“The key to playing well for a long time, longevity, is in the mental side of it. You have to want to go away from the golf course, not at tournaments, and still put the hard work in at the gym and on the range.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
NEW ERA: Westwood at JGE during Tuesday’s remote media conference.

“It’s alright turning up to tournaments because that gets your competitive juices flowing, but it’s those cold mornings when you need to go out and hit balls for two or three hours or go to the gym and work on your flexibility and your strength, do squats and deadlifts. That’s the time when you need good mental training.

“Turning up this week, if I play as well as I know I can play, it’s a golf course that suits me because I’ve won here and played well other weeks. I’m going to have a chance. At 47, nearly 48, that’s a big bonus.”

The elephant in the room remains his back although Westwood seemed quietly confident when he fronted the media on Tuesday.

“Another day and a half, nearly two days, before I tee off with any kind of purpose. I’ll have a lot better idea by then.

“I’ve hit a few balls and it’s starting to feel a lot better. I didn’t quite have as much apprehension going through the ball, I wasn’t waiting for the pain to kick in as it has been.

“Once I get a bit more faith in going at it full-on, beware the injured golfer. You never know. I never know how I’m going to play week-to-week, so who knows.”